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Homefront; Jill Tunstall on the new series that takes a peek inside Welsh homes.

Byline: Jill Tunstall

WHEN investigative journalist Jane Harvey was asked to present a show about Welsh houses her first thoughtwas "that sounds soft and fluffy." But, says the former X-Ray presenter, she was about to be proved wrong.

There's more to house programmes than make-overs and DIY dramas, in fact housing affects us all in many ways, including politically and socially.

Even so, after doing up two houses herself, she admits to being curious about some of Wales' loveliest and most interesting homes and interiors.

"My background is in consumer and investigative journalism and I didn't really understand what housing could be about. It really is quite a meaty subject," she admits.

"I think these programmes are so refreshing because, although we all have a bit of a voyeur about us and would like to have a look around people's homes, they show there's more to it than that."

Discovering Welsh Houses takes us into a huge range of homes from the lovely Lloen house built for the man behind Halo Foods, Peter Saunders OBE, whose staircase took a local craftsman three years to create, to 300 year-old Toe'n Nos at Pistyll which was built in a day.

Jane and architect Michael Davies also open the door to a Tywyn cooperative housing project where their owners pay the mortgage but will never actually own the house and another built by miners.

Mynydd Llandegai, near Bethesda, featured on Wednesday, is a unique settlement within Wales, built by the miners themselves in one of the country's bleakest spots.

"We just seemed to climb higher and higher for ages," says Jane. "But when we got there it wasn't at all how I expected. There were these neat, straight lines of cottages, all equally spaced.

"And we were lucky to be able to talk to two men in their 80s who had been miners and lived there all their lives."

Mynydd Llandegai was originally thought to be too bleak and inhospitable to grow anything, but the miners proved they could create flourishing, productive gardens too.

"The sheer determination of the people who built these houses in such tough conditions was impressive," she says. At the end of each shoot the crew would chat about whether they could live in the home they had just visited. And one, Peter Saunders house featured next week, was the outright winner.

"We were all blown away by it," says Jane. "It is set low into the ground, its roof designed to mirror the undulations of the mountains behind it.

"And he used local craftsman, giving them a healthy budget, which is unusual nowadays, and it just shows. The staircase took three years to build and fitted perfectly, even the skirting boards were built without nails and there were stained glass windows.

"The quality of the house was absolutely fantastic. Peter could have built anything he liked, something grand and ostentatious. This house isn't even visible until you're close up, it really is something special Discovering Welsh Houses BBC2W, Tues and Wed, 8.30pm


Presenter Jane Harvey with architect Michael Davies; Toe'n Nos at Pistyll (above) which was built in a day and the staircase that took three years to create
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 3, 2005
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